Texas Archeological Research Laboratory



TARL curates artifacts and related material from over 8000 sites. The lithics collection is extensive and includes stone tool assemblages, as well as chipping debris and ground stone objects. The pottery collection has over 3,300 complete vessels and hundreds of thousands of potsherds. TARL also preserves many perishable artifacts including basketry, plant fibers, wood, shell, and bone. Non-artifactual materials important for archeological research such as animal bones, charcoal samples, ethnobotanical (plant) remains, and soil samples, are also housed.

The collections are used for ongoing research by the staff at TARL, the faculty and students of the Department of Anthropology, and scholars outside The University of Texas system. Specific collections are frequently the topics of M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations. Researchers from throughout the United States routinely examine TARL's artifact collections, bringing new questions and applying newly developed methods.

TARL also loans artifacts to accredited museums for special exhibits.  A fee is charged to cover the costs of certain artifact loans.  See below for the loan fee schedule.  Currently, the new Bob Bullock Texas State Historic Museum is showcasing a series of artifacts from TARL Collections.

TARL Loan Fees (see Fee Schedule)

Request for Access to Collections (download PDF)

This form should be completed when a research project indicates the need for a review of collections held by TARL. The Access to Collections Policy may be found in Section 10 of TARL's Collection Management Policy.

General Collections

Important organic artifacts (fiber, wood, bone, and shell), stone tools, pottery, metal artifacts, and other significant items are housed in Room 19. This secure climate-controlled facility was built in the mid-1990s with matching funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and The University of Texas at Austin. Within the room, artifacts are stored site-by-site in state-of-the-art museum cabinets within a mobile storage system. The facility is capable of holding 73 cabinets, each containing approximately 40 drawers. The curation staff continues to add artifacts from incoming collections as well as upgrading existing TARL collections, many of which date to projects from the 1930s and 1940s.

Type Collections / Comparative Collections

Over the years special groups of artifacts and source materials have been organized as type collections to facilitate comparative analysis; these are available for use by researchers and students at TARL. The Comparative Collections include: projectile points, ceramics, lithic raw materials, and shells. TARL's faunal type collection was transferred to the nearby Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory (VPL), where they are now part of a much more comprehensive collection. Researchers interested in examining faunal materials should contact VPL.              

The projectile point type collection was largely organized by Ed Jelks and Dee Ann Story (then Suhm) while preparing the original Handbook of Texas Archeology (1954). Some examples have been added subsequently. The ceramic type collection consists of diagnostic sherds of pottery types found in Texas and adjacent areas, particularly the American Southwest. The lithic raw material collection contains chert and various other rocks and minerals from archeological sites and source areas across the state. The locations of these sources are plotted on dedicated topographic maps stored with the collection. The shell collection includes many of marine and freshwater species exploited by prehistoric peoples for food and raw material for making tools and ornaments.

Whole Vessel Collections

Over 3300 complete or reconstructed pottery vessels from across Texas are housed in a secure facility and are accessible for comparative study. The collection contains the largest group of Caddoan vessels in a single curation facility. In fact, the Caddoan vessels make up the bulk of the collection. Although pottery is an extremely durable material, complete and reconstructable vessels are rare at most archeological sites. For this reason, the Whole Vessel Collection is a particularly important resource for researchers. Modern potters such as Jerri Redcorn of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma have visited the collection for inspiration in creating contemporary masterpieces based on ancestral designs.

Human Remains

Human remains from archeological investigations are housed in a separate, quiet, climate-controlled room. TARL has completed comprehensive inventories of the human remains as called for by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The disposition of human remains and associated objects affiliated with particular Native American Tribes will be determined by each tribe. Any access to human remains requires a completed Request for Access to Human Remains form and consultation prior to any research. A NAGPRA consultation fee will apply.

Bulk Collections

Many archeological investigations result in the collection of large numbers of commonplace artifacts, soil samples, and various geological and ecological materials. Most of these are housed in a separate building. Such materials are stored site-by-site in standard curation boxes on open shelving within a locked, caged area.

Marybeth Tomka, Head of Collections | marybeth.tomka@austin.utexas.edu | 512/475-6853